Some of these fine coupes may often be seen at car shows across the country while others are rarer than a Bugatti Royale. Here are, in my opinion, the Top Ten Affordable Coupes of the 80s.
The svelte body has certainly stood the test of time, even if the 1.4 and 2.0-litre engines of the early model were not especially thrilling. The must-have Fuego was the 1984 Turbo, as helpfully identified by the word ‘TURBO’ subtly emblazoned on the sides. Two points of trivia – it was the first mass-market four-seater coupe to be designed in a wind tunnel and, in 1982, the first car fitted with remote control central locking.
At first sight, the 480 does not appear to belong in the 1980s; its looks and general demeanour seem more indicative of the John Major era Britain rather than Margaret Thatcher. However, it was indeed displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 1986 as the belated successor to the P1800, not to mention being Volvo’s first ever front wheel drive car. In the words of the brochure- ‘Modern technology applied to traditional principals’.
The early Preludes were some of the more understated coupes of the 1980s. The Mk.1 EX model may not have been the fastest coupe in its class but its coachwork had an idiosyncratic elegance and the cabin was lavishly appointed down to a concentric tachometer. and with the sun shining through the open sliding roof and Madness’ The Return of the Los Palmas 7 blaring from the cassette player, all was right with the world.
Just where, as the popular saying goes, have they all vanished to? Thirty years ago, the second incarnation of the Scirocco was not an uncommon sight on British roads but now they are as rare as finding anyone prepared to wear a shell suit in public. Possibly the most uber-1980s model was the 1984 Storm with its 16-valve engine, flared wheel arches and, best of all, vestigial running boards.
It is easy to see why, in its heyday, the Starion was regarded as a highly desirable coupe – the looks were as sharp as the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album, the Turbo version was capable of 137 mph and it was wonderfully responsive. Plus, those sculptured leather seats were bound to impress all and sundry in the shopping precinct car park.
As has been rightly said on many occasions, the Injection is a textbook example of how to end the production run of a long-established model on a triumphal note. Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering division in Essex added a Bosch K-Jetronic system to the 2.8 litre ‘Cologne’ engine and such was the demand that Ford kept the Capri Injection in production for much longer than they first intended.
The XR4i was powered by the same engine as the Capri Injection but had a rather different appeal. The latter was a coupe for the last of the Marlboro Men, whose role model was still Jack Regan in The Sweeney while the former belonged in a world of Filofaxes and two jars of hair gel every week. It even boasted a double rear spoiler.
In 1981 there was some surprise that GM did not build a FWD Manta version of their new Opel Ascona C/Vauxhall Cavalier II but the old B-Type was still a very popular coupe. From 1983 – 1987 it was the only Opel to be sold in the UK (the remainder of the line-up had now gained the Griffin badge) and two of the most desirable models is the last-of-the-line Exclusive GT/E with its Recaro seats and, of course, the 144bhp Manta 400.
One of my favourite coupes of this era, combining looks, space and sheer brio, even if the body was not exactly renowned for its longevity. Car magazine found the two-litre version to have ‘simply marvellous road holding and handling’ and if you needed yet more performance there was always the supercharged Volumex. Still the epitome of the 1980s autostrada cruiser.
Yes, they only just make it into the decade, yes, they mark the outer boundary of what might be considered ‘affordable’ – but the Skyline is just too magnificent to ignore. Quasi-American lines combined with Japanese build quality (and levels of equipment) result in a car that is unabashedly flamboyant - and genuinely individualistic.